Veggie" Capsules May Be Far From "Natural"Veggie" Capsules May Be Far From "Natural"
Posted on:Sunday, November 4th 2012 at 4:00 am
Written by:Dr. Rivkah Roth
Use of Semi-synthetic "Hypromellose" in Supplements, Vitamins, Medications and Foods Adds Up!Initially used in small amounts, hypromellose today accumulates in uncontrolled, possibly excessive amounts from accumulated daily consumption of vitamin, mineral and supplement capsules, time-released prescription medicines, eye drops and lubricants, growing use in gluten-free, egg-free, and other processed foods—not to mention the daily exposures to commercial and environmental uses.
Industrial Uses of HypromellosePrimary commercial uses of hypromellose as a water retention, binding and lubricating agent include:
- construction materials
- cement binders
- gypsum products
- tile adhesives
Pharmaceutical and Commercial Uses of HypromelloseIncreasingly, hypromellose figures as the only or main ingredient of non-animal derived gel capsules (so-called "veggie capsules") in natural supplements and prescription medicines.
Other common uses include the coating of prescription medicine tablets and suppositories, injected joint lubricants, a large selection of eye drops and ophthalmic solutions, and more.
In short, we find hypromellose in:
Results. The toxicity ranking of the tear substitutes correlated in all assays. The ATP assay was the most sensitive, followed by ethidium cell permeability, and finally the esterase activity. Preserved hypromellose was more toxic than the unpreserved preparation. Among natural tear substitutes, natural saliva was most toxic. Isotonic saliva and 50% serum were of similar toxicity, and 100% serum was least toxic. Natural tear substitutes were—except for natural saliva—less toxic than unpreserved hypromellose. Hypotonicity, but not amylase, was the major toxic effect associated with saliva. The dilution of serum with chloramphenicol induced toxicity.
- dental applications
- foods (especially "gluten free" or "egg free")
Not a "Natural" CompoundHypromellose is chemically extruded from wood and/or cotton fiber. Although it is chemically extruded it is considered "safe for vegetarians" and, unfortunately, represented in a superficial manner as "natural."
The Codex Alimentarius lists hypromellose under carbon based substances as E464. The FDA has considered it "G.R.A.S." (generally recognized as safe)—without any further need for proof of harmlessness, even in larger amounts (see the following research conclusions arrived at by—note!—DOW Chemicals).
On the basis of the summarized toxicology literature as well as the JECFA toxicological evaluation of modified celluloses, including HPMC, Dow concludes that HPMC is GRAS for general use in food of at intake levels up to 20 g/p/d (GRAS Notice No. GRN 000213).So, the decision becomes ours on how much, if any, we are willing to ingest or use topically.
Hypromellose or hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) is an inert, viscous and elastic semi-synthetic phthalate polymer. Latter is worth repeating.
Please note: Hypromellose classifies as:
- a semi-synthetic and
- a polymer and
- a phthalate!
Food for ThoughtAs we have seen, hypromellose is finding common use as an emulsifier and thickening agent in medications, foods and commercial products as well as a slow-release mechanism of choice for a huge number of supplements and prescription medications.
Most commonly we encounter hypromellose as a gelatinous solution. When dissolved in water, it forms a homogenous colloid.
However, in its solid (powdered) state, the higher its concentration, the lower the temperature required to turn it into a combustible and prompt a powerful reaction when confronted with oxidizing particles and agents.
Latter particularly raises concerns when we consider the natural acidity and temperatures in excess of the specified threshold of 25 degrees Celsius inside our gastrointestinal tract.
The fact that hypromellose is a semi-synthetic does not make it "only half as dangerous" when compared to any full synthetics. It still is a polymer, a broad class of compounds that includes everything from synthetics plastics (Bakelite, neoprene, nylon, polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC, synthetic rubber, silicon) to the natural polymers such as amber, cellulose (wood, paper), natural rubber, shellac, silk, wool.
Unknown Interaction Between Bio-Polymers and Synthetic PolymersSemi-synthetic polymers such as hypromellose closely resemble natural "biopolymers" (polynucleotides, polypeptides, polysaccharides, etc.) such as are involved in the formation of our DNA and RNA.
To date we do not know if there is any danger of our body misinterpreting the semi-synthetic hypromellose as a natural polymer and replacing part of our genetic structure.
Still not concerned about this semi-synthetic potentially masquerading as natural building blocks?
Due to the fact that hypromellose has been classified as GRAS by the FDA there is little relevant research available when it comes to comparing natural with semi-synthetic polymers.
Safety assessments of hypromellose intake vary. Differing from the above quoted DOW Chemical research results, a 2007 research estimates it at 5mg/kilogram bodyweight/day based on rat research.
However, semi-synthetic compositions change and new safety ratings are yet to be established. What does not seem to enter new research is the ever increasing cumulative daily intake from "natural" supplements, prescription medications, glutenfree and other processed food products, and environmental exposures.
Make-Believe Foods Partially "Artificial"With the increase in non-celiac and/or celiac glutensensitivity, food manufacturers experiment with hypromellose as a gluten replacement in bread dough   due to its ability to trap liquids and the air bubbles formed by yeast.
Unverified predictions claim that hypromellose-containing whole grain breads will lower cholesterol levels. Clearly, such an assumption is open to interpretation:
- Is it indeed the presence of the semi-synthetic polymer hypromellose that lowers cholesterol levels?
- Is it the fiber part of hypromellose that affects the cholesterol levels?
- Is the drop in cholesterol levels due to the polymer not being absorbed?
- Or, is there a link with gluten and avoidance of glutens that lowers cholesterol levels?
What happened to the Hippocratic Oath of "Do No Harm"?
-  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23078551 Drug Dev Ind Pharm. 2012 Oct 19. [Epub ahead of print] Production of extended release mini-tablets using directly compressible grades of HPMC.
-  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22169271 Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Mar;120(3):379-84. Epub 2011 Dec 8. Identification of phthalates in medications and dietary supplement formulations in the United States and Canada.
Rivkah Roth DO DNM®, author of "At Risk? Avoid Diabetes by Recognizing Early Risk - A Natural Medicine View" and the "DIABETES-Series Little Books" is a semi-retired natural health professional and lecturer with doctorates in osteopathy, natural medicine, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. She practiced and taught in Canada, Switzerland and Israel, and specializes in non-celiac and celiac gluten sensitivity, early diabetes risk recognition and avoidance, fibromyalgia and other autoimmune and inflammation-related pain and structural challenges. For further information: www.rivkahroth.com